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Jun 21, 2008 06:41 PM

[Hou] Fuegovivo Churrascaria

The EE and I hied ourselves off to Fuegovivo Churrascaria for dinner this evening. Fans of Fogo de Chao or other churrascarias will be familiar with the drill: Bountiful buffet of appetizers and salads followed by meat, meat and, for a chaser, meat. You have a little card at your place setting that you turn to its green side to signal "Bring on the meat!" and to its red side to signal you've had enough.

The buffet was nicely presented and had some interesting offerings. The Italian influence on Brazillian and Argentinian cuisine was evident. You could have assembled a lovely antipasto platter: salamis, marinated artichoke hearts, caprese (fresh mozarella, fresh basil, sliced tomatoes), marinated hearts of palm, several varieties of olives, carpaccio, cheese, with a selection of vinegars and oils with which to anoint your choices. There were also the fixings for a tossed green salad, along with the requisite chaffing dishes of rice, beans, mashed potatoes and gravy. The seafood offerings (mussels and smokes salmon weren't great, but everything else was fine.

Your waiter then brings you a plate and you turn your card green-side up, and the meat begins. Fellows in gaucho dress scurry about with skewers of meats and knives. They come to your table, announce their offering and you accept or decline. The gaucho then carves off a portion of his offering if it's one you'd like to eat. Fuegovivo boasts 15 kinds of meat, but the emphasis is firmly on beef with several cuts of steak (the garlic steak was tastiest), beef ribs, and sausages that tasted like beef. I saw pork ribs, chicken breast, lamb chops (good) and leg of lamb (should have tried that since lamb I find is hard to come by in Houston). But, again, beef is king. They didn't offer any of the more exotic meats you find in some churrascarias (rabbit, alligator, etc.) Most of the meat was cooked to about medium. The EE likes his meat well-done, so we told the waiter. It took a little while, but eventually one of the gauchos arrived with well-done picanha (top sirloin).

The EE loved the little cheese rolls. I looked forward to the fried polenta cakes, but didn't care for the taste of the oil in which they were deep fired. What I thought was a fried plantain was actually a fried banana; it was coated in crumbs with a dash of cinnamon and it was tasty if unexpected.

We shared the passion fruit mousse. The creamy, rich, sweet mousse was complimented by the tart passion fruit puree drizzled over it.

The cost was $42.00 per person plus tax and tip. Dessert and drinks were extra. Total for the two of us was $125.

I believe they offer the buffet-only option only at lunch; you might check with them if this interests you.

How did they compare to the name-brand Currascaria a few blocks east? The food was about as good, and the price was few dollars less. Fogo de Chao is more corporate and chain-like; Fuegovivo appears to be family owned and operated. All of Fuegovivo's employees were cordial and helpful.

Would we return? The EE will not. He's a pretty light eater, so he didn't get his money's worth. I would go with a group that wanted to try it, but I wouldn't go back alone. But I predict Fuegovivo will do well. With HOustonians' love of meat, the friendly service and the slight novelty, Fuegovivo should fill a niche. There was a wedding party in a private room, several date-night couples, several family groups, a few older couples -- quite a mixed group.

Fuegovivo Churrascaria
11681 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77077
Phone: 281-597-8108

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  1. Thanks Dorothy! I have been waiting to see a review of this from someone I know. We went to Fogo de Chao a couple years ago for a special occasion. My DH even had a limo pick us up! It was very good, if you are a true carnivore! The salad bar wasn't so great, IMO, but the cheese puffs were addicitive. I had to resist. I liked all of the meats, except the chicken drumettes, and I didn't want to waste any space in my tummy on sausage. The polenta was very good, and so were the potatoes.

    We have also tried Nelore Churrascaria, where the salad bar offered more, but the hot dishes weren't hot at all. Neither were the cheese puffs, which was a let down, and there were only about 5 pieces of polenta at the salad bar. I kept waiting for them to bring more out, but it didn't happen, and the one I tasted was a bit stale. I felt we were snubbed by our waiter because we didn't order any wine. The meat was all pretty good, I especially liked the lamb. We were disappointed, but want to give them one more try before we write them off the list, because my DD has eaten there and didn't have any of the same issues as I did. Also it is less expensive than the others.

    A couple questions about the Fuegovivo; did you need reservations? Was it very busy? Loud? What time of the day did you go? Oh, and what does EE stand for?

    Thanks again.

    1 Reply
    1. re: danhole

      We went on Saturday about 6:30. It was perking, but there were free tables and they seated us right away. I think if I were going at prime time with a larger number of people (and had planned ahead!) I'd make a reservation.

      The noise level was medium. We could easily converse. There was recorded music -- much of it vocal. One of these days I'm starting a thread about quiet restaurants in Houston . . .

      EE stands for Electrical Engineer. It's my shorthand for my husband.8-)


    2. hello ladies, the problem i have with churrascurias is that i prefer my meat medium rare and notice that most of the meats the gauchos are pawning off are medium to medium well. sometimes upon request a gaucho will disappear and reappear with meat that isn't as cooked through, but it is usually just a pain to have to always ask.

      i remember the salad bar at fogo to be better than nelore, but nelore had more hot items including a fettucine alfredo (maybe they called it a brazilian stroganoff).

      for the money, i'd rather go to any of the better steakhouses in town like vic and anthony's or pappas bros and split a large steak and some apps and have all the food prepared to order and arrive at the table absolutely perfect. but i can see how some people may love the all-u-can-eat aspect.

      lunch time prices at all these places are definitely more reasonable (who's going to pay $40 for lunch?). i think lunch is only $14.99 at nelore, which in my opinion is a good deal.

      1 Reply
      1. re: neverfull


        when we went to Fogo our waiter asked us how we liked our meat cooked, and we both like medium rare, closer to rare. He made sure that is what we were offered. At Nelore it was more hit or miss, and as I said the hot items at Nelore's salad bar were not hot, just lukewarm. I do want to try it again. I think the lunch or brunch would be the best time to go. I like having the option of eating a variety of meats instead of being stuck with just one choice. Also love the salad bars.

      2. We went on Labor Day, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It started with the cheese puffs, fried polenta, fried yucca, and the crumb coated fried banana that Dorothy described. I liked it all, but was saving room for meat! I really liked the salad bar. There was a tuna salad, or that's what I think it was, that was very tasty, as well as what Dorothy already mentioned. They also offered mixed greens, that you could top with some bacon, cheese, and had a variety of dressings to top it with. There were 4 or 5 different kinds of cheese to sample, and there were 5 hot dishes off to the side, with a stroganoff, black beans and rice, mashed potatoes and I don't remember the other 2. They all smelled very good but I passed on those.

        The meat was all very good. When I was offered something I didn't want, I pointed to a meat (there was a brochure on the table with a list of the meats) and said I would like that instead. A couple minutes later that came out freshly cooked, and perfectly med-rare.

        The service was wonderful, and the decor is very pretty. I liked the fountain above the salad bar. Pretty neat touch. I had a glass of wine. I couldn't decide between 2 different brands, so he brought me 2 glasses to help me choose. I liked the cabernat sauvignon I choose, but can't tell you anything about it except it was from Argentina.

        All in all a good experience and we look forward to going back. I even got a hug from the older woman, who I think is either a manager or an owner.